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ATTIC, PART 2: DRYWALLING

05.04 - 10.04 -- feed them, and they will come

click to see the full photo galleryWe were anxious to get to the drywalling since it would mark a milepost in the attic renovation, a phase where we could see a real and dramatic change from the way it was before.

We were lucky to have Dad and Malinda come out to help us get started, get things wired (a huge, huge help, since they basically got all the electrical, cable, and phone outlets wired AND showed us how to do all sorts of nifty wiring stuff so we don't go electrocuting ourselves), and show us the ropes for putting up drywall. Thanks to them, the back third of our attic and the area around the stairwell were done by the time they left and we were well on our way. 

But it's a big room, with a lot of extra work involved at every step, and they're only human, after all, so there was still a lot left to do.  Namely, the remaining slanted sections of the ceiling and the very large dormer on the south side of the house.  And of course, we hadn't exactly made it easy on ourselves with the insulation we chose, which caused its very own special set of problems.

See, we did our research.  And everything we read said R38 insulation for the ceilings and R25 for the walls for homes in the Pacific Northwest. Which seemed pretty high, considering it was the same values recommended for Wyoming, but whatever.

Well, we wanted to do this right so we intended to put in the correct value of insulation. Little did we know how expensive it was. And since we needed to cover so much area, well, it ended up costing 3x what we had originally budgeted, and that was after we had decided that there was no way we could afford the R25, let alone R38, so we would buy the highest we could possibly manage: R21.  We did, however, get a big price break for buying all the rolls at 24 inch widths even though only the rafters are that wide. It ended up being cheaper to buy enough for the whole attic in the wider widths than to buy just what we needed for the ceiling and then a narrower width for the walls. Not the most ideal situation, but it was the best we could do and still be able to do the project.

Two problems, though. The higher R value meant a thicker bat, which were going over Styrofoam vent baffles (see part 1) that already were taking up an inch of space in the rafters. So by the time we had the insulation installed, there wasn't any give whatsoever and it made hanging the drywall infinitely harder, especially on the slanted sections of the ceiling. It was like trying to cram 4 tennis balls in a can that's only meant to hold 3. Which, yeah.  And then doing it at an angle, above your head.

The other problem, which we only found out after it was too late, was that the information we had on what R value to use was wrong. Oh, the R38 for the ceiling was right, although we could've gotten away with as low as R19, but for the walls, we really only needed R11. We've never felt a closer kinship to Homer Simpson than when we found that out. (We were somewhat vindicated later when we learned that because we were insulating an attic, the recommended R value really was R25, but that was cold consolation (pun intended) considering we'd had to smash up the insulation so much when we put up the drywall that we'd negated whatever extra insulating value it had.)

But those're the pitfalls of doing the work yourself and it was too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately, as I said above, it made the actual drywall work extremely difficult. Just holding the sheets in place took at least two very strong people pressing with all their weight against the drywall and then a third person to tack it in place. Plus, we started out using drywall screws alone -- in theory, the right idea, in practice, sucktacular -- so it took so much work (and aggravation) just getting the sheets tacked up that everyone's energy was wiped out after only a few sheets.

And then, of course, the infamous angles. Our roof has a fairly steep pitch and the kneewalls are only about 5 feet high, not to mention the house was built 90+ years ago. And then there's a substantial dormer that cuts the space in half and none of the crossbeams are level with each other...it was like trying to drywall a room in an M.C. Escher drawing.

It was all such a problem that by the time my friends from work came out to help us, it'd been two months since we'd made any progress on the drywall. We coaxed them out with promises of a spread the likes of which they'd never seen, which may or may not have been an exaggeration. We did our damnedest, though, to live up to the hype. Including Sal's famous wings, a recipe so incredibly good that it has the power to bend people to your will and must therefore only be wielded with the greatest of care. Or when you need help drywalling your attic.

Our only regret? Not bribing them to come out sooner. See, if we'd only watched Witness lately, we would've been reminded that the Amish have it all figured out:

lots of food + lots of people = barns raised in a day

Anyway, thanks to our friend's expertise and the help and hard work of our other friends, we not only managed to bang out the rest of those sections that had been holding us up for so long, we did it in about five hours.

Among other things, we also learned that drywall nails are your friends (use them to tack the sheets up, then go back and use screws to firmly fix them in place), the secret to drywalling difficult sections is not to overthink it (instead of trying to drywall around the rafter beams, just cut slots in the drywall for them to go through), and that "hot mud" is a gift from the gods.

Oh, we still have drywalling to do, make no mistake. But it's work that we can do ourselves -- the kind of work we thought most of the project would be, originally. More importantly, though:

Master suite, here we come!

click to see the full photo gallery